Rear Admiral is a naval commissioned officer rank above that of a Commodore and Captain, and below that of a Vice Admiral. It is generally regarded as the lowest of the "Admiral" ranks, which are also sometimes referred to as "Flag officers" and/or "Flag ranks". In many navies it is referred to as a two-star rank.
It originated from the days of Naval Sailing Squadrons and can trace its origins to the Royal Navy. Each Naval Squadron would be assigned an admiral as its head, who would command from the centre vessel and direct the activities of the squadron. The admiral would in turn be assisted by a vice admiral, who commanded the lead ships which would bear the brunt of a naval battle. In the rear of the Naval Squadron, a third admiral would command the remaining ships and, as this section of the squadron was considered to be in the least danger, the admiral in command of the rear would typically be the most junior of the squadron admirals. This has survived into the modern age, with the rank of rear admiral the most-junior of the admiralty ranks of many navies.
In some European navies (e.g., that of France), and in the Canadian Forces French rank translations, the rank of rear admiral is known as counter admiral. In the Royal Netherlands Navy, this rank is known as schout-bij-nacht, (lit.: supervisor during night), denoting the role junior to the squadron admiral, and fleet admiral.
Since the mid 1990s, the insignia of a Royal Australian Navy Rear Admiral is the crown of St Edward above a crossed sword and baton, above two silver stars, above the word "AUSTRALIA". Note that unlike other Commonwealth countries, the sword is a traditional naval cutlass. The stars have eight points, unlike the four pointed Order of the Bath stars used by the army (which are often referred to as "pips"). Prior to 1995, the RAN shoulder board was identical to the UK shoulder board. (The UK shoulder board changed in 2001).
In the Canadian Forces, the rank of rear-admiral (RAdm) (contre-amiral or cam in French) is the Navy rank equivalent to major-general of the Army and Air Force. A rear-admiral is a flag officer, the naval equivalent of a general officer. A rear-admiral is senior to a commodore and brigadier-general, and junior to a vice-admiral and lieutenant-general.
The rank insignia for a rear-admiral is two gold maple leaves beneath crossed sword and baton, all surmounted by St Edward's Crown, worn on shoulder boards and slip-ons on uniforms other than the service dress tunic. The Service Dress features a wide strip of gold braid around the cuff and, since June 2010, above it a narrower strip of gold braid embellished with the executive curl. On the visor of the service cap are two rows of gold oak leaves.
Rear-admirals are initially addressed by rank and name; thereafter by subordinates as "Sir" or "Ma'am", as applicable. Rear-admirals are normally entitled to staff cars.
Indian Navy also maintains a Rear Admiral post senior to Commodore and Captain posts and junior to Vice Admiral (and Admiral) posts.
In the United States since 1984, there have been two ranks with the title of Rear Admiral: Rear Admiral (Lower Half) (RDML), a one star rank; and Rear Admiral (Upper Half) (RADM), a 2 star rank. Prior to that, a combination of ranks were used - see the main article and Commodore (United States) for the history and evolution of these ranks.
In Vietnam, the equivalent to Rear Admiral is the Chuẩn Đô đốc or Đề đốc, literally "master of the rowboat".
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